Vanilla is nothing short of delicious. It is a luxurious dessert ingredient that makes people’s mouths water. Vanilla is an ingredient used in many sweet foods, from ice cream to cakes, cupcakes, and various others. It is a popular flavour choice, given its aromatic and sweet but mellow taste. It comes as no surprise then, that bakery Délices uses vanilla to add a mouth-watering flavour to their pastries. Take the Le Flan Parisien as an example, a melt-in-your-mouth egg custard tart with a hint of vanilla. Absolutely beautiful.
The gâteaux served at Délices calls to people’s sweet tooth and leaves them wanting more. However, there is a difference between using vanilla pod and vanilla extract, details for which will be provided later. The addition of vanilla pod extract adds a hint of luxury to desserts given the process it takes to harvest the vanilla pod. It can only be harvested in three countries, it is in high demand, and without a doubt delicious. To truly appreciate the vanilla pod and the luxury it adds to sweet desserts, you must first understand its history and production stages.
The vanilla bean origins
Vanilla requires a very specific type of environment for it to grow. The vanilla pod comes from the fruit of a flower, the orchid. This particular orchid species is a vine-like plant that climbs around trees and can reach 15 metres in length.
You may be wondering if you can plant this around your London home. The answer is no. Due to the necessary fertilisation the plant requires to grow, only three countries can produce it: Mexico, Madagascar, and Tahiti. Originally, the vanilla pod could only be cultivated in Mexico due to the fertilisation required to produce the fruit (as a result of a fly that only existed in Mexico). This changed in the 19th Century, as a slave discovered a way to manually fertilise the flower. Since that point, the vanilla pod is also grown in Madagascar and Tahiti, it is now established that the vanilla bean is a tropical commodity.
The luxurious value of the vanilla bean is also in part due to its production stages. Producing the vanilla pod is no easy task. One must fertilise the flower one by one, as one flower will only produce one vanilla pod. Yes, you read that right. Even then, there is a long process to get the final product.
When it is ready to be plucked, the yellow vanilla pod must be boiled to stop it from maturing further and splitting. Next, the pod is kept for half the day in a woolen blanket for it to lose its moisture and turn black. Once it has dried for several weeks, it will be placed in a special case and left for at least eight months to mature its aromas.
The high demand of vanilla pods, the laborious and long process of producing vanilla made it reach a price of 650 euros for 1 kg of vanilla pods. Andy Collins also spoke about the global shortage of vanilla on BBC Three Counties Radio, alongside guest speaker Diana from Délices. High demand, climate issues and organised crime in Madagascar, makes the vanilla pod more expensive and less available. Vanilla is an expensive product.
The perfect vanilla pod
The perfect vanilla pod has a certain look to it. A good and ripe vanilla pod is black, lightly glistening and supple. Depending on which of the countries it is cultivated in, it will look slightly different. The Tahiti vanilla pods tend to appear bigger and fatter, for instance. However, it is this perfect vanilla pod that will add the most aromatic and flavourful experience to the desserts where it is placed.
Vanilla pod vs vanilla extract
The vanilla pod has anywhere between 100 to 150 aromas, making its flavour complex and rich. It is sweet and floral, but with a hint of spice. Isolating eleven aromas from the rice bran, on the other hand, obtains the vanilla extract. Evidently, the vanilla pod is far superior in luxury and taste compared to the vanilla extract. The ingredient should not be substituted, as real vanilla is a tropical and luxurious crop that is unlike any other taste.
Géraldine and Diana understand and reiterate the importance of sourcing and using the best vanilla pods in their baking. After all, what’s a La Bombe Rouge or Le Vanilla Mundi without the perfect vanilla to tie all those ingredients together? For more information on how we craft our delicious baked goods, read our about us page, or better yet, pop into our bakery and try our pastries and cakes in person!